Bautista’s Surge Continues

Since September 1st, 2009, Jose Bautista has played 152 games and received 647 plate appearances. That’s one season’s worth of playing time. In those 152 games, he has launched 50 home runs. It’s time to stop wondering when he’s going to go back to the hitter he used to be. He’s not going to. He has taken a step forward.

I’m not saying he’s going to keep hitting home runs at this pace, which is an unrealistic assumption even for the game’s premier power hitters. But we should recognize that Bautista has made changes to his offensive approach, and not assume that he’s simply getting lucky with balls flying over the wall.

Here are his flyball rates over the last three years.

2008 – 38.8%
2009 – 42.1%
2010 – 53.6%

You don’t have to look too hard to spot the pattern. Bautista has made a conscious decision to adjust his swing to gain more loft. In fact, if you saw the swing he took on his second home run last night – which was aided by some anger about being thrown out earlier – you can see exactly why Bautista is no longer hitting the ball on the ground.

He has a pronounced uppercut and he swings about as hard as humanly possible. These are not cheap home runs he’s hitting. Take a look at his home run charts from Hit Tracker.

There are a couple of squeakers on there, but for the most part, he’s been hitting bombs like the two he drilled last night. If we look at his HR/FB rate, you can see that his frequency of getting balls to clear the wall isn’t that unusual: 21.5 percent of his flyballs have left the park this year, which still ranks him behind Joey Votto (25.7%), Carlos Pena (23.7%), and Adam Dunn (21.7%). Over the past three years, five players have averaged a HR/FB rate of 21.5% or better, which isn’t exactly uncharted territory.

Bautista will likely never have a year like this again, but there’s no reason to think he’s going to revert back to the version we saw before last September. He has made changes that can stick, even if not quite to this degree, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Bautista hit 30 to 40 home runs each of the next several years.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


110 Responses to “Bautista’s Surge Continues”

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  1. Jon says:

    He’s made changes that can stick, even if not quite to this degree, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Bautista hit 30 to 40 home runs each of the next several years.

    ill take that bet

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  2. Ben says:

    From his surge, it is fully expected that Bautista is trying to pull everything, but I had no idea that it was this dramatic. If I read the chart correctly he’s hit 40 HRs, and every single one of them is to the left of straight away center.

    Wow.

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    • GBeck15 says:

      I believe that chart is representing the launch angle of his home runs, not their landing spot in relation to the field.

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    • Steve says:

      He has ZERO career home runs to right field.

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    • Giancarlo says:

      he also has the ability to layoff of the outside pitch, or sit on it. Why he leads the AL in walks.

      there are pull hitters that look foolish once pitchers figure them out. Yet he doesn’t submit to the pressure if he doesn’t get the pitch he wants, or a mistake.

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      • Someanalyst says:

        The key to his pull-hitting success is that he sits on almost as many breaking balls as fastballs, and with similar success (I think, I have not looked at run value by pitch type for him). As the pitcher who gave up the second home run to him two days ago noted: he has a zone where he will swing to crush it, almost regardless of pitch type, and he will ignore anything else.

        I think this is just a case of a batter being strongly resonant with his manager’s hitting philosophy. This is Cito Gaston, who lauds ARod for preferring to strike out looking than swing at something he was not looking for.

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  3. mettle says:

    i like the 365-day cycle you’ve been incorporating in your writing these days.

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  4. Bill@TPA says:

    It’s awesome to see a post about this without any mention at all of…the stuff I’m not going to ruin it by mentioning.

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    • Bob says:

      Stay current with the trends. According to the MLB apologists, steroids don’t help you hit home runs.

      -66 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Kyle says:

        Yes, Bonds went from a career high of 46 homeruns, 6 or 7 years later 49 in 2000, and in 2001 he hits 73. He was 36 years old… roids do nothing for hitting homeruns? Unless, on top of the weight you gain is mostly muscle instead of fat as long as you hit the gym hard, they also give you tons of confidence.

        Clemens had 3 of his worst seasons in his last 4 years with Boston, but “allegedly”gets on roids and wins 2 straight Cy Young Awards. Years later, he goes to the Astros and puts up a record of 38-18(could have had 50 wins if the Astros didn’t blow so many saves), while posting ERA’s of 2.98, 1.87, and 2.30. I wouldn’t find it so suspicious if he hadn’t been 41-43 years old, and had not gone 11-14 with an ERA of 4.46 with Boston when he was only 30 years old.

        Caminiti went from a career .259 hitter with one season over 20 homeruns to a 40, 130 RBI, and .326 hitter who won the MVP. In only 146 games? Roids just don’t do anything for athletes. That’s why so many take chances on ruining their legacies and careers by using them, right? Brady Anderson hit 50 bombs, drove in 110 runs, and had a career high .297 batting average while being the typical 3-18 homerun hitter with a career BA of .256. Goes from a guy who couldn’t do anything(hit about .220 and 3 homeruns on average) to a 28 year old who hits 21 homeruns, drives in 80, and steals 53 bases and being elected to his first all-star team.

        Just so odd!

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    • Jason B says:

      And booooooo to your first comment as well. What purpose, other than baseless speculation, would be served by mentioning it? Not one shred of evidence to support such a claim. Which is of course no proof of innocence, but if we’re going to tag everyone having a career year or good season with the scarlet letter, where does it end? To the back of the steroid bus with you, Joey Votto! And Omar Infante! And Robby Cano! And Delmon Young! And Angel Pagan! And…and…where does it end? What senseless claptrap.

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      • Steve says:

        While I agree that the speculation is baseless, we don’t have to be steroids nazis to know that Bautista’s “career year” IS different than those those other career years.

        Doesn’t mean he’s guilty, but Omar Infante and Jose Bautista have almost nothing to do with each other.

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      • Bill@TPA says:

        you misunderstood my comment. I was making the exact same point you are. Virtually every other article being written about him right now DOES mention it, so it was nice to read this one, for all the reasons you just gave.

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      • Jason B says:

        Ah I gotcha. I’m kinda dense, you REALLY have to spell things out for me. :)

        But in the meantime…would you like to buy some Nike gear? We have Air Jordans!! (Hey everyone else seems to be doing it around here…)

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      • miffleball says:

        While any accusation regarding steroids is baseless, there’s a fundamental difference between bautista’s career arc and the other mentioned players…

        infante has gone from a career average of 3 hr to 6 hr this year
        votto, cano and young have been at the top of prospect/rising star lists for years. votto and cano have both seen their hr numbers trend upward over the last several years. young is hitting the same this year as last ( 15 in 118 games vs. 12 in 108).

        bautista, in contrast, is a 30 year old who struggled to make the pirates who has never hit more than 15 home runs in a season. and in case i missed it – struggled to make the pirates. he’s been repeatedly claimed off of waivers and used as the player to be named later in trades. we’re not talking about expected production here…

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      • Bill@TPA says:

        Reading back over it, it’s easy enough to misinterpret. Is it that I don’t want to ruin this post by bringing up this infuriating and frankly boring topic (my actual intent)? Or that I don’t want to ruin this discussion of Bautista by suggesting that he did PEDs (the way you probably interpreted it)? Lazy wording on my part.

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  5. Kirsh says:

    Bautista’s always had pop. He could hit when he was a utility guy with the Pirates. This kind of numbers spike is shocking, but he’s got ridiculous strength and has always had a sweet swing.

    It’s not surprising to see him having huge success, and it kills me that the Pirates gave him away for nothing.

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    • Brendan says:

      they would have non-tendered them by this year anyway, they got a promising catcher prospect for a utility player at the time, very understandable what pittsburgh was thinking.

      Yes, bautista pulls everything, but he’s got a great eye and is able to reach pitches on the outside corner and leave the ones that are off the plate. His hands are quick enough to beat a fastball on the inside corner.

      Also, isn’t his BABIP like .240 or something? My guess for 2011 is he sits somewhere around 25-30 HR but pulls his average up to around .280 and his OBP pushes .390, still a very valuable player without needing to hit 50 HRs.

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      • Giancarlo says:

        that’s why it’ll be a good idea for a 3 year deal this off-season before he does it again next year.

        I definitely think he’ll be at the bare minimum a 25 HR guy.

        When the Jays first got him, I remember they interviewed him and he said he wanted to play everyday because he knew he could do it and do it well. Well, we had to wait for Rios to get waived for that to happen, and it’s probably saved the Jays a lot of money.

        I agree, I see his average up next year and OBP around .400 while hitting a few less HRs. But that’ll be mainly due to the fact I believe he’ll be batting cleanup next year.

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      • James says:

        The BABIP is probably low due to the number of HRs… an increase in BABIP plus a decrease in HRs will offset and won’t help his batting average or OBP.

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      • Brendan says:

        james, a decrease in home runs doesnt necessarily mean a decrease in hits.

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      • Brendan says:

        oh never mind i read your comment wrong. yes, fair point.

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      • Brandon says:

        BABIP is low because of all the fly balls — those that don’t go over the fence tend to get caught.

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      • Someanalyst says:

        As Brendan points out, low babip is a product of many fly balls, which is something Bautista is clearly doing deliberately with that uppercut swing that has made his FB% explode over the last 3 years. (from ~35% to >50% I believe).

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  6. TexasRanger says:

    That second home run was a thing of beauty, he put hatred in that ball, and it went flying. The look on his face while hitting it was priceless

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    • Someanalyst says:

      AL East baseball is like a league of its own… that was wonderful stuff. As a Jays fan, I have sometimes fumed about our playoff hopes being hindered, but this season, I am loving the endless string of battles with RSox, Yanks and Rays, even though we do not come out on top for the most part…

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  7. Chris Brown says:

    He’s certainly been hitting the ball with bad intentions. If he could bring his average up to at least 265-275, with a couple more SB, he’d be a far more menacing player. Pitchers are going to start changing their strategies and him being able to keep them honest will go a long way to staying in 30-40 hr range

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    • Brendan says:

      They’ve already tried adjusting, he’s getting like 10% less fastballs than last year and many more sliders and more curveballs.

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    • Jason B says:

      “If he could bring his average up to at least 265-275…he’d be a far more menacing player.”

      (1) His OBP means more than his average (he’s among the top 10 in the majors in BB), and (2) his average has been negatively impacted by a far-below-average BABIP anyway. That has begun normalizing over the past few weeks and his average has accordingly been creeping up.

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      • KG says:

        I’ve heard that due to all his HRs and FBs, his BABIP will be lower than normal, in any case. Maybe it was excessively below, but I can’t imagine it going up that much more. I do agree, obviously, with the OBP statement.

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  8. Jeff says:

    Bautista is also 5th in the majors in BB, that’s what helps him out he’s not afraid to take walks if pitchers don’t give in to him. although I’m surprised he hasn’t drawn 1 intentional walk this year.

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  9. Grover says:

    Have to agree with Brendan, watching most Jays games like I do, Bautista is a very smart hitter, pretty sure he still leads the league in walks doesn’t he? He’s been getting pitched differently ever since he started off so hot, but because he’s smart enough he’s able to adjust within a very little time frame to the trend of the moment to get him out. He’s a very good breaking ball hitter, I think the first one was another hanger last night, and there aren’t many(hell IF any) that can put a fastball by him this year. Bat speed and starting his swing sooner along with the pure muscle and trajectory he puts on these swings are the reasons he’s doing it(go back to Sept. of last year, too), not it-that-shall-not-be-named.

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  10. Richard says:

    I’d attribute his success to 3 main factors;

    1.) Coaching. Gaston/Murphy preach a philosophy of looking for one pitch in an at bat that you can really turn and drive on ( John Olerud with his patience and tendency to take pitches the other way drove Cito nuts). The general team approach seems to be to upper-cut or get some loft on the ball if possible ( the team leads the A.L. in fly ball % and does so at the expense of line drive % which is lowest in the A.L.). Bautista is the star pupil.

    2.) Weather. It’s been very warm and humid in Ontario this spring and summer. The ball carries better in such conditions. Now I realize one year park factors given their sample size need to be approached with some caution, but the Hr. factor in Hogtown this year is 1.35. It’s always been good at the Rogers Centre ( particularly for right handed hitters), but this year seems particularly beneficial. I believe Jose has hit 25 of his 40 dingers at home.

    3. Confidence. Gaston seems to love him and trots him out everyday no matter what, to the same position. No longer is he a utility player. Having your boss believe in you has a lot of benefit in any occupation.

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    • OTerry says:

      4. It all comes down to facial hair.

      a) Coaching, Gaston can really rock a moustache, and encourages J-Bau to do the same, and then some.

      b) Weather: Because it’s been so warm and humid in vicinity of his face, the extent and speed of facial hair propagation has been maximized for Jose. Al this despite the xHairGrowth homepark factor at the Rogers Centre not being so high this moment (it’s been in league wide decline since the early 1990s – for which I blame Bud Selig)

      c) Confidence. No longer is he a utility player. He’s a bearded Paul Bunyan.

      That is all.

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    • Giancarlo says:

      Bautista also said that he looks at the days pitchers last few outings and watches how they approach the power hitters. If he recognizes any type of pattern, he will almost know exactly when he’s going to get a fastball in of if he’s going to get something soft out and wait for something that hangs onto the plate too much.

      It’s another thing Cito preaches. Tipping pitches. If you can find out a pitchers pattern and know what’s coming, you can crush it.

      Robbie Alomar said it was the thing he learned the most from Cito.

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    • PhD Brian says:

      I think regular playing time is so underrated. Bautista knows everyday that he will play and where he will play. That lowers the stress of playing and has to seriously improve any players chances to do well. Pirates never took that chance, but the Blue jays did and are now rewarded.

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  11. Grover says:

    ^^Posted before I saw 5th in walks, thanks dude.

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  12. chuckb says:

    What I find most astounding is that he’s managed to increase his FB% and add this huge uppercut while making more contact and actually cutting his K%. One would think that altering his swing to produce so many more fly balls would also contribute to many more K’s but that’s not the case at all. He’s had just a terrific year.

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    • Liz says:

      Ted Williams was a proponent of the uppercut and didn’t K very often. He observed that the ball is moving downward as it crosses the plate, and that an uppercut gives the bat more time traveling the same path as the ball, albeit in the opposite direction.

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  13. Gaelan says:

    The real question is why are strikes still being thrown to him, especially in a late tie game situation. He is regularly followed in the order by the potent Wells, Lind and Hill (Wells has no RBI in something like 2 weeks, all in the 4 spot). Kudos to Cito for constructing such a fearsome lineup that opposing pitchers are forced to pitch to him.

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    • wily mo says:

      maybe wells has no RBI in 2 weeks because bautista homers in every plate appearance

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      • Jason B says:

        It could also be because he is the hitter we thought he was all along – i.e., not particularly good, perhaps a league-average one, and definitely not good enough to be manning a clean-up slot. Certainly not one that would make pitchers think twice about working around Bautista to face, at any rate.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        By i.e. you mean e.g. and by league average you mean career .344 wOBA and .351 wOBA for the year.

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      • DavidCEisen says:

        My bad, too snarky on my part, i.e. is acceptable as well.

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  14. Brian K says:

    I don’t understand why pitchers DON’T pitch him on the outer 1/3rd of the plate. He’s NEVER hit a HR in his career to RF, so why pound him inside if he can’t hit the long ball the other way? Make him adjust. I think that once pitchers start doing this, then he’ll drop off in terms of hitting.

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    • batpig says:

      if you watch the replay of the 2nd home run, the pitch was supposed to be off the plate outside but missed and tailed middle-in, then Bautista crushed it. The thing that separates the great hitters is that they absolutely crush the mistakes.

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    • The Ancient Mariner says:

      No kidding. Granted, pitchers aren’t always going to hit their spots, but man, if I were pitching to this guy, I’d aim for the outer edge of the plate every time — and if I were the catcher, I’d set up there and not move. Strikes on the outer third, or else balls away, and don’t give him a thing he can pull.

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      • fjkagreklg says:

        Yeah… guys should just throw sinking fastballs down and away on the outside corner every pitch.
        Not everyone is Cliff Lee…

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      • Watcher says:

        Based on my observation, they do pitch him away a lot. He’s managed to lay off a lot of those. Some of the power pitchers though still try to get inside on him (e.g. Papelbon) and have paid for it.

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      • KG says:

        As people have mentioned, pitchers may be trying to do just that, but not everyone has pinpoint location. And the point is, that when those pitchers miss with those pitches they are trying to put on the outside of the plate, he either takes it as a ball, or crushes it.

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      • Giancarlo says:

        as stated in my prior reply, he studies this. You can’t get into a pattern, because he’ll crush you.

        He’ll sit on that outside fastball and lean over the plate.

        He has a keen eye, so you have to throw perfect pitches to beat him all while avoiding a pattern so he can’t sit on particular pitches.

        Very tough to do.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        We were discussing this the other day at TT’s blog, and a few guys posited the idea that the average P can hit his spot around ~50%, while elite guys are more around 70%.

        I think we, as a group, over-estimate just how often major league pitchers can hit their spot in a live game situation.

        By changing speeds and moving theball around you can get by with missing spots here and again (and if you have great stuff), but hitters will capitalize on mistake pitches if they are too frequent.

        If pitchers could locate sinkers down and away all the time, or keep changeups down, fastballs way in, etc … the league average hitter would be batting in the low .200′s.

        On the flipside, if batters never swung at pitches out of the zone (sounds easy enough, right?), there’d be a lot more .300 hitters.

        Everything sounds easy in theory.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Not everyone is Cliff Lee…

        As we saw the other day with his pitch charts, Cliff Lee does NOT nibble, he attacks the heart of the plate, and then movs the ball away.

        If you fall behind with nibbling, then you’re either forced to walk the guy, fall behind, or have to give into the hitter.

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  15. Zack says:

    Nice article but i disagree with your conclusion that this is why he started hitting so many home runs this year. I remember when Brady Anderson went from 16 home runs per year to 50 in one random year that they said similiar things about his swing

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    • Socrates says:

      This is completely different from Brady Anderson. Anderson had been a full time player who was known more for his speed. Bautista has always been looked at as a guy with power potential. That is why he was jerked around with the rule 5 rules in 2004 as a 24 year old playing on 4 different teams. Pittsburg never made him a full time player, and he spent a few years displaying modest power there.

      Once he got out of Pittsburg he got some attention from coachs (he had missed that in the minors possibly because he of his 2004 travels). In 2005 he had 55 extra base hits in 496 ABs. That is some power display. It never adjusted to the bigs because his swing still had some problems.

      Joe Buck (another former power prospect) is also having a breakout year. Watchout for Edwin Encarnacion if he can stay healthy.

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    • Bill says:

      Actually I think it is very similar to Brady Anderson. The guy just got in the zone for one year. He was hitting everything out in front of the plate with backspin.

      Same with Davey Johnson in 1973. It clicked.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Davey Johnson is a good comparison, IMO because DJ was on a team that featured four 40 HR guys … indicated that it wa something with the philosophy, ballpark, or a combination of such things.

        TOR, as a team, is hitting a lot of bombs, so there’s probably more to it than just “he’s found it for one year”.

        My guess is that it is a conscious decision to use a swing path that results in more FBs & HRs.

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  16. Brendan says:

    If you’re older than like 24 nowadays, is it insane to have a breakout year?? Didn’t Bautista have less ML ABs than Adam Lind when each player broke out?

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  17. Joe R says:

    It’s a mystery why anyone would ever pitch Bautista low and inside. His swing is designed to absolutely devastate everything that’s thrown there.

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  18. tercet says:

    Bautista had a hr last weekend against Boston that was centre right field. Other then that he is 99% a pull hr hitter.

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  19. CircleChange11 says:

    Dave,

    John Kruk made the same commentary last night (credited their hitting coach) on Baseball Tonight in regard’s to Bautista’s swing path and focus on pulling.

    You’re in good analysis company now. *grin* (joking)

    Kruk also referred to Orlando cabrera as an “offensive force”, but I don’t know if he meant “offensive” to mean “provides a lot of offense” or “offends people with his production”.

    Don’t get me wrong, you’re no Chris Singleton … but there’s always a higher goal to aim for.

    All this joking and babling, but I do agree with your conclusion. When a batter has success due to a different swing path or focus in the zone, that is sokmething that can continue until the pitchers make him do something differently. He has shown enough discipline to not chase silly stuff outside that he cannot pull well.

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    • Big Oil says:

      After reading your comment about Orlando Cabrera and “offensive force”, I believe I’m entitled to a new keyboard.

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  20. Michael says:

    Question: How many players have hit 50 HR in a season AND had two inside the park HRs in the same season?

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  21. Scott says:

    If you look at his hit chart . . .

    http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/stats/individual_player_hitting_chart.jsp?c_id=tor&playerID=430832&statType=1

    . . . you’ll see he has almost no power to right. You’d think that after a 40+ HR year, pitchers will start using the outer half of the plate next season.

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  22. phoenix says:

    i think he will be an offensive force going forwards but not on this level. maybe 30-40 as pitchers adjust to him. pitch him only away and breaking stuff and if you miss, miss out of the zone away. walk him if you fall behind. pretty soon bautista will see OBP rise, but will have less homers because he’s not getting the inside fastball he can kill. he will get impatient with his homer production and start chasing pitches, wanting more homers. then his K rate will rise because he’s not being pitched to and he wants to clock the homers ever PA. now its either that or he adjusts to being pitched around and stays in the zone, taking more walks and hitting fewer homers, not because he doesn’t have the power, but because pitchers respect his bat too much to risk giving him a single cookie. the latter of course is scarier than the one dimensional slugger with a ton of strike outs.

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    • Giancarlo says:

      Sounds like Adam Lind syndrome. Why Adam Lind isn’t hitting well for the most part of this season. Last season I didn’t see him chase anything. This year he’s been chasing too many pitches.

      Bautista is way too patient for that though. He’s always been patient at the plate.

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  23. WY says:

    Interesting to compare this post (which I think is good) with an earlier one by Dave Cameron, Jr. (aka Jack Moore), claiming that we should be “wary” of Blue Jays sluggers such as Bautista going forward:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/beware-the-jays-sluggers/

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    • Christopher Taylor says:

      To be fair, Jose has hit 16 HR since that article and some of the points stand up.

      That being said, when I read that article I thought Bautista had been unfairly lumped in with AGon. Entirely different situations.

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  24. Phantom Stranger says:

    As a dead-pull hitter, it will be tough for him to duplicate these power numbers going forward. Some pitcher will eventually figure out a hole in his swing, and then all the advance scouts will copy that pattern. He has fundamentally altered his approach to hitting, usually credited to the hitting coach for the Jays. I see him as a 30-homer a year guy going forward, but I doubt he ever leads the league again unless he ends up in a home park like Fenway. It would be interesting to see how many homers he would be projected to hit in a place like that for a RH-batter.

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    • siggian says:

      Fenway would be a terrible place for him to go. Sure his high shots will make it out easily, but for his line drive HRs, all he will do is dent the Green Monster. In the last series, he really got hold of one pitch, and he ended up with a single out of it.

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  25. tdotsports1 says:

    What a beast, the Jays will have to explore what a team would be willing to (over)pay for him?

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  26. lexomatic says:

    I find it interesting re: the 25 minimum homeruns next year. This was ALWAYS his full season pace if you look at his career numbers.

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  27. Ray says:

    Of the 277 home runs determined by HitTracker to have traveled off the bat at or in excess of 110 miles per hour, 5.1% are Bautista’s.

    Of the 173 at or in excess of 111 MPH, 5.2% are Bautista’s.

    Of the 108 at or in excess of 112 MPH, 7.4% are Bautista’s.

    Of the 78 at or in excess of 113 MPH, 9.0% are Bautista’s.

    Of the 34 at or in excess of 114 MPH, 11.8% are Bautista’s.

    Of the 23 at or in excess of 115 MPH, 17.4% are Bautista’s.

    Are you sensing a pattern here? Bautista has 7 of the 55 hardest hit home runs this year. No else has more than three. All of these numbers are through Sunday’s games so some of the totals are liable to be even higher now.

    As it stands right now, Joe Baptist has hit 1.135% of all home runs in major league baseball this year. Nobody outside of Bonds, Sosa and McGwire has topped this figure since Ken Griffey, Jr. launched 1.207% of 1997′s big flies. There were two fewer teams then, however. Extrapolating out to 30 teams, he takes a back seat to Bautista with a 1.126% adjusted share.

    Using this flawed methodology, Albert Belle’s 50-jack ’95 campaign comes out slightly ahead of Bautista, with a 1.225% raw figure and a 1.144% adjusted figure. Matt Williams’ 43 in ’94 represented a 1.210% adjusted share, again slightly ahead of Bautista.

    If we’re talking full seasons, it hasn’t been since 1992 with Juan Gonzalez (1.227% adjusted share) and a curiously slimmer Mark McGwire (1.198% adjusted share) that a single player could claim such a monopoly on long balls. Bautista can sit out the rest of the season and still finish with a 0.87% share, an impressive feat considering the calendar still reads August.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      Like to get a measure of Bautista’s bat speed. Elite power hitters generally top 100mph. Given Bautista’s propensity for pulling the ball, and combining it with the velocities you listed, and it has to be elite fast (100+).

      Pujols’s bat speed (~86mpgh) is slower than the typical power hitter (~100), but his swing is different since it’s flat at the bottom and stays “open faced” (barrel parallel to ground, for a longer time (which is why he can drive the ball to all fielders).

      Bautista’s swing is a very quick, short, uppercut swing … his swing actually kind of reminds me of Utley’s swing, but from the right side. The stroke is so short, but the acceleration of the bat is so fast that they are able to launch baseballs a low with a short stroke.

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  28. PJ says:

    Good for Bautista and good for a sabre blog to acknowledge his mammoth growth this year.

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  29. Jeff says:

    You can’t spell Bautista without “Ibanez”. Or something.

    Check out their (Ibanez 2009 and Bautista 2010) similar FB% and HR/FB ratio spikes. If that doesn’t say fluke, not sure what does.

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    • chuckb says:

      Ibanez turned 38 this season. Bautista’s not yet 30. Big difference!

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      • Jon says:

        Mark Reynolds did the same thing last year with an abnormal HR/FB split.

        Much as I like Dave’s writing, what’s missing is that Bautista’s *career* FB% is 45.1%. The 38.8% figure in 2008? That was his career *low*. In 2006, Bautista got 469 PA’s and put up a 47% FB rate…but only hit 16 HR’s.

        Personally, I still think it’s tough to see how he’s a fundamentally different ballplayer than what we thought.

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  30. pft says:

    In 1967, Yaz in his 7th season hit 44 HR after hitting only 16 HR in 1966, and never having hit more than 20 HR before. In 1968, he dropped back to 23 HR. After 2 40 HR seasons in 1969 and 1970 when they lowered the mound and pushed it back, he never hit more than 28 HR, and hit 20 HR only 3 times over the next 13 seasons.

    This was long before the steroid era. During the off season after the 1966 season, Yaz started working out with a strength and conditioning coach, making enough money that he did not have to work a day job in the off season like most players. He attributed that to his success, and perhaps Bautista is in better condition or just learned to hit HR which many hitters say is a skill that develops over time.

    Can’t rule out PED’s since they are a reality and nobody but the most naive person would believe MLB’s testing program is 100% effective given there are designer drugs that can evade detection, they don’t test for HGH, and for all we know, the testing window may have a large known hole in it. But assuming PED’s are not an issue for lack of evidence, what other factors may play a role?.

    Yankee announcers were suggesting that the Blue Jays might be stealing signs/location at home and Posada was giving multiple signs even with no ROB. Bautista has 25 of his 40 HR at Home, and the team as a whole has a similar split. Technology today makes a lot of things possible. But 15 HR on the road is pretty good too, and I am pretty skeptical of this theory.

    Also, the Blue Jays lead the league in HR swinging on the 1st pitch, double most teams and 50% more than the Red Sox who do not swing as often on the 1st pitch. Bautistas numbers also show he is more aggressive on the 1st pitch, and more productive, but this only accounts for 7 of his HR.

    I would say it had something to do with the homepark (ball tampering or weather), but Toronto pitchers are not giving up many HR at home (tonights game excepted).

    I am inclined to believe Bautista is in better shape, more aggressive at the plate, more disciplined, and has learned to hit HR instead of LD/GB. The numbers seem to support the latter 3 points.

    Maybe the league will adjust to him, maybe not. He should never see a pitch on the inside of the plate except when it knocks him on his behind or drills him in the ribs (his choice).

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  31. Jeffrey Gross says:

    Only 2 of Bautista’s career HRs are not to left field

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  32. hundley21 says:

    This post is almost as good as the one i wrote the day before

    http://gameofinches.blogspot.com/2010/08/jose-bautista-likes-to-pull-ball.html

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  33. Cman says:

    People, you need to be more critical with the data you see.

    The author is obviously being very selective with the date they are using. When you (conveniently) leave out some data, it is so much easier to prove certain points.

    Anyone think it is odd that ONLY three years were shown:

    2008 – 38.8%
    2009 – 42.1%
    2010 – 53.6%

    The previous two years, evidently, didn’t show the trend the author was looking for, so he conveniently left those two years out.

    2006 – 47.3%
    2007 – 43.4%

    So 2010 is not that much of an out-lier. Data lies too folks, not just words. Don’t be fooled by nice looking graphs and numbers.

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  34. Cman says:

    No edit button?

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  35. exxrox says:

    okay, let’s draw from Bautista’s most recent at bat, in Toronto vs Detroit’s Max Scherzer in the first inning. The catcher set up outside in the same spot for all five pitches, as appears to and should be the gameplan (this being his first at bat of the series). For those of you who cannot watch it themselves on MLB.tv, here is the gameday for the at bat:

    http://a.imageshack.us/img718/8347/screenshot110m.png

    Bautista recognized all five pitches to be outside of the zone, and did not come close to offering any of them. All of them were borderline strikes, but the feeling could be had that he was not biting regardless of whether or not they would have been strikes. He was eliminating that half of the plate completely.

    I also notice that he bats quite close to home plate, and when he leans towards the plate it is obvious that he can cover that half if he were to want to.

    It would be interesting to see pitch locations of his HRs. I remember seeing that in an article about Aaron Hill’s surge last year, and Hill hit all but one of his HRs on pitches on the inner half. But he has not adjusted like Bautista.

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  36. Max G says:

    Any speculative statements on Jose Bautista using steroids is just that–speculation. I’ve seen him in person play for both the Bluejays and the Pirates, spanning several years of time. Over that time, I’ve seen no change in his physical appearance other than sporting a beard vs the occasional soul patch. The man is not on steroids. Here’s why:

    Bautista is in his prime age of swing refinement.
    He plays for one of the most pull-happy managers of all time, which is right where Bautista’s strength as a hitter, even in his bad seasons with the Pirates has been. He’s a classic pull hitter. Cito has a strong history of doing very well with pull-hitters, and ruining ones that use the whole field. (following John Olerud’s 1993 .363 24 HR season, Cito demanded that he pull the ball more to increase his power potential. It took 4 years for Olerud to get his swing back to where it should be, because he is not a pull-hitter. Man, Cito screwed him up…Joe Carter, on the other hand, being a pull-hitter, did quite well under Cito)

    Bautista’s swing has changed, as mentioned in the above article. His flyball trends are pretty basic, and indicate that he has been consciously trying to hit more flyballs for the last there years. Again, something clicked under Cito, as it did last year with Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, and this year with a healthy Vernon Wells. And look what he did with John Buck. They are all pulling the ball more and swinging for the fences. Bautista was just the best student of this approach in 2010. It’s not the most ideal approach for winning ballgames, either, as the low batting averages of a lot of these Bluejays can attest.

    The testing for steroids in baseball is more aggressive now, and I have to believe that Bautista would be caught for using, if that was the case. (except for HGH, which would be hard to detect). Still, if they can catch Manny and A-Rod, why can’t they catch Bautista? Because he’s not using, that’s why. The statistics show a pattern of gradual improvement, and going back to September of 2009 as the turning point for him under Cito, and it carried over into this year with more improvement after an offseason of practicing his more refined uppercut swing, with improved patience regarding outside pitches that he can’t hit. Steroids does not improve plate patience. Practice does.

    Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Boone, et al, had very noticeable changes to their physiques, and at ages older than Bautista. They were very obviously using steroids. The statistics and the the fact that Bautista’s physique appears the same, and the fact that every player on the Bluejays is pull-happy, hitting for lower average while crushing the ball all point to him being clean and finally living up to his power potential that was advertised when he was an uber-prospect some 8 years ago.

    People forget all too quickly about Bautista being talked about as the power hitter that would rescue the Pirates. It didn’t happen because he had a lot of learning to do, but the potential was always there, it just wasn’t realized until he ran into Cito Gaston and refined his swing. So please, enough with all this steroid talk. There are plenty out there that raise an eyebrow, but steroids are simply not the cause of Jose Bautista’s dramatic power improvement.

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  37. Dave I says:

    Pitchers’ ability to hit their spots – I remember reading a comment by Tom Seaver that he estimated that about 1-2 times per game he was able to put a ball in exactly the place he meant to, with exactly the speed and movement he wanted to. Don’t know if that’s the perfectionist in him or if we fans will ever be able to gauge “intended movement and velocity” as opposed to just intended location, but geez, that’s a lot different than 50-75% accuracy!

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  38. Ryan says:

    Don’t use that excellent reasoning in an argument with Keith Law, though. He’ll smugly suggest Bautista will hit 21 home runs next year without any knowledge or facts behind it.

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  39. Matt M says:

    He’s on something…probably HGH. Negative tests mean nothing, the drug makers are always ahead of the testing.

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